Professor at Leiden University

Postdoc Position (1 fte, 1.5 year) in Comparative Psychology

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Institute of Psychology, the Cognitive Psychology Unit has available a


Postdoc Position (1 fte, 1.5 year) in Comparative Psychology


Vacancy number 19-348


Research Project “Evolutionary Insights into Social Intelligence. A comparison between humans, bonobos, and chimpanzees”                                                                      

Why do humans cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by self-interest. People cooperate not to benefit themselves or their close genealogical kin, but do so out of an intrinsic empathic motivation. However, humans are also familiar with betrayal, exploitation and subordination and as a consequence at times refrain from cooperation. We like to see ourselves as intelligent ‘SuperCooperators’, unique among animals. But are we? While most research emphasizes the superiority of humans over other species, increasing evidence suggests that if it comes to social intelligence, some other species have skills that are superior to those of humans. Within this research project, cooperation is treated as the ultimate socially intelligent behavior as it increases the common good, which in the end benefits all individuals within the group. Further, emotional expressions and their recognition, possibly informed by emotional mimicry and/or physiological synchrony are considered important drivers of cooperative behavior. In sum, the project challenges the view that humans are the most socially intelligent species.


This project is supported by funding from the Templeton World Charity Organization and by an ERC Starting grant to Dr. Mariska Kret (Leiden University). The project will run in parallel with ongoing projects in the CoPAN lab, directed by Dr. Mariska Kret ( The research group participates in the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition (LIBC), an interfaculty center for interdisciplinary research on brain and cognition (


Related publications:

Behrens & Kret (in press)

Kret, M.E., Muramatsu, A., & Matsuzawa, T. (2018).

Kret, M.E., Jaasma, L., Bionda, T., & Wijnen, J.G.  (2016).



Key Responsibilities

  • Literature study, hypothesis-driven development and execution of experimental studies in these three species;
  • Report results at conferences and in at least two international peer-reviewed journals;
  • Supervise BSc and MSc thesis projects;
  • Assist in the ongoing projects of PhD students;
  • Active in outreach, reporting results to the general public via (social) media.


Selection Criteria


  • A PhD degree
  • Experience with training and testing animals;
  • Excellent research and writing skills;
  • Excellent command of English;
  • Excellent communication skills (cooperation with zoos and zoo staff is pivotal).



  • PhD in experimental psychology, biology or statistics;
  • Good connections with zoos with possibilities to collaborate;
  • Knowledge of multilevel statistics;
  • Programming experience (e.g., Matlab, R);


Our faculty/Institute

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences comprises four institutes: Education and Child Studies, Political Science, Psychology and Cultural Anthropology & Development Sociology. The Faculty also includes the Centre for Science and Technology Studies and hosts 5,000 students and 600 staff members.

The Institute of Psychology comprises six units (teaching + research): Health, Medical and Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental and Educational Psychology, Social and Organizational Psychology, and Methodology and Statistics. The Institute of Psychology offers a stimulating environment that promotes collaboration within and between units. For more information, see For this project, we collaborate with different zoos in the Netherlands.


Terms and conditions

We offer a 1fte, fixed-term post for 1.5 year (at least 18 months) which can possibly be extended. Salary is in pay scale 10, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. A part-time position is possible too and teaching opportunities can be discussed if a research/teaching combination is preferred.


Preferred starting date: autumn/ winter 2019, early 2020


Leiden University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.



Enquiries can be made to Dr. Mariska Kret, email:



Applications (specifying the vacancy number), including a CV, a motivation letter, at least two recommendation letters and any additional documents such as a publication list can be submitted – before September 23d online, here. The recommendation letters may also be directly send to the PI:


Receipt of your application will be confirmed by e-mail. If you have not received a confirmation within three days after submission, please contact us at +31 – 71 – 527 3427


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